Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Weave A Tangled Web

For many of us the data scandal scenario that was being presented to us in which Bernie Sanders was the offender and Hillary Clinton the innocent victim had an aura of unreality. But then we were told that the behavior of Sanders’ staffers was even worse than we knew. Heck, even Greg Mitchell tweeted that considering what happened, it made sense for Wasserman Schultz to shut Bernie out of the voter database. Even so, I still had nagging doubts, never mind the terribly calm and reasonable way in which Mitchell phrased his argument. For one thing, it was all too convenient coming as it did after Bernie received two important endorsements, not to mention right before the Democratic debate. And strangely, Mitchell didn’t mention that Wasserman Schultz violated her contractual obligations which include among other things the obligation to give the offending party time to correct the problem.((Ralph Ruchiano, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Unfairly Attempts to Damage Sanders Campaign? Engineering Evil, Dec. 18, 2015. Available: http://engineeringevil.com/2015/12/18/dnc-chair-rep-debbie-wasserman-schultz-unfairly-attempts-to-damage-sanders-campaign/)) Are we to understand that Greg Mitchell thinks the Democratic Party’s violation of its obligation to a candidate ‘makes sense’? Surely he can’t think that! We should probably delve a little deeper, don’t you think?

At the center of the whole crisis is data technician Josh Uretsky, who has said that he was only trying to assess the security breach and that there was no way the campaign could benefit from anything he did. Uretsky believed his actions were appropriate, and he has not been contradicted by those close to the campaign. Ted Devine, senior advisor to the Sanders campaign said Uretsky was fired because he hadn’t immediately reported the problem to top staffers.

Uretsky’s Philadelphia friends and associates are also finding the story hard to believe. Adam Bonin, a Philadelphia election-law attorney, said “It’s just impossible for me to imagine that he would be looking at this situation and say, ‘Let’s figure out how to exploit it for the campaign’.”

Dan Fee, a political consultant who runs the Echo Group in Philadelphia said that Uretsky has dedicated his life to trying to implement things that he believes in. Fee got to know Uretsky when Fee was managing a successful campaign in 2009 for District Attorney Seth Williams. Fee calls Uretsky, who was a field worker in the race, a man of ‘integrity’.

Kati Sipp, director of Pennsylvania Working Familes has worked with Uretsky on voter targeting efforts on various races over the past six years. Uretsky was Pennsylvania data and targeting manager for America Votes from November 2011 until September, when he left to join Sanders, but before that he was co-chair of Philadelphia for Obama, a grassroots group that formed separate from the Obama campaign apparatus. Sipp said she has always trusted him with important data. ((Maria Panaritis, Fired Sanders Staffer With Phila. Ties Not a Cheat, Associates Say. Dec. 19, 2015. Available: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20151220_Philadelphian_Uretsky_at_center_of_Dems__data_breach.html))

If this drama can’t be explained by questioning the character of either Bernie Sanders or Josh Uretsky, perhaps we should pursue another line of inquiry. The DNC would probably be the next place to look for answers.

The Sanders campaign has accused the DNC of favoring Clinton. Their evidence is the limited number of debates, as well as timing of those debates. Some of them have been held on weekends, assuring that many people won’t be watching them. The most recent one was held on the Saturday before Christmas and although it was supposed to begin at 8:00 at the last moment it was moved back to 8:30. And now we have the DNC’s curious handling of the data breach which resulted in a shut down of the Sanders campaign for an entire day.

There’s good news here and there’s bad news: The good news is that Sanders was probably right; the bad news is we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the shady dealings of the DNC in this campaign.

1. Wasserman has also been accused of rigging debate audiences to be friendly to Hillary Cliinton. It was Tom Fiegen who leveled this charge at the DNC after the second debate.

2. The Clinton campaign rented a campaign office within the local Democratic Party office in Nevada, a crucial early primary state. This was revealed by Pete Voelker in a recent VICE News report. According to Voelker, the walls are papered with Hillary Clinton signs but there are no signs for the other two Democratic candidates. Of course Clinton campaign spokeswoman Joan Kato denied there was any ‘co-mingling’ going on. However, the address of the campaign office is the same as the address of the local Party office. The campaign has also opened an office at the Carson City Democratic Party headquarters.

3. In New Hampshire, Democratic Party staffers rushed to join the Clinton campaign before Hillary announced her candidacy. According to WMUR, Mike Ollen, Gene Allen, and Liz Wester left their positions at the state party to join the Clinton campaign in early April 2015.

4. The DNC supposedly operates under strict rules of remaining impartial during the primary process until the nominee has been selected, but one top DNC official was just caught raising money for the Clinton campaign—Henry R. Muñoz III, who used to be a top fundraiser for President Obama, became the chief of the Party’s finance operations in 2013. He was caught fundraising for Clinton in San Antonio, Texas. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is directly responsible for this ethical (legal?) lapse, however she didn’t reprimand Muñoz;

5. The DNC lined up superdelegates, or party bosses, for Clinton before the first debate. This means they subverted the democratic process in an attempt to preemptively win the nomination before all 50 states have held their primary election. Superdelegates are typically DNC leaders and current and former elected officials ranging from governors to members of the US Congress. In August, before the first Democratic debate had taken place, the Clinton campaign reported that she had one-fifth of superdelegates already committed to backing her at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. According to Wikipedia, roughly half of the 700 + superdelegates have already committed to backing Hillary Clinton. ((Amanda Girard, 5 Times Debbie Wasserman Schultz Violated DNC Rules and Stacked the Deck in Favor of Clinton. USuncut.com, Dec. 20 2015. Available: usuncut.com/politics/debbie-wasserman-schultz-hillary-clinton/))

And finally, we can’t forget NGP-VAN, the company that hosts the Democratic Party’s database. The following information comes from Anthony Brian Logan at Greaterunderstanding.net. ((Anthony Brian Logan, Bernie Sanders Sues DNC in Federal Court, Follow the Rabbit Hole. Greaterunderstanding.net, Dec. 19, 2015. Available: http://www.greaterunderstanding.net/video-bernie-sanders-sues-dnc-in-federal-court-follow-the-rabbit-hole/))

The cofounder of NGP-VAN is Nathaniel Pearlman, who was the chief technical officer of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. At that time his company was called NGP Software, but it merged in 2010 with Mark Sullivan’s VAN (Voter Activation Network). Nathaniel Pearlman also has a graphic design Company, Graphicacy.

In the 2008 campaign Nathaniel Pearlman supervised Brian Pagliano, the guy who set up the server in Hillary Clinton’s house. He’s the one who pleaded the 5th in the Benghazi hearings. Pearlman also went to school with David DeCamillis, director of business development for Platte River Networks. Platte River Networks employs David Goodfriend of PR Company Dovetail Solutions. Goodfriend is a lobbyist and friend of John Podesta, Chair of Hillary’s 2016 campaign. He’s also chair of Center for American Progress and a client of Graphicacy.

At this point I think we at least have an explanation for why audit the documents relating to the data breach were provided to the Clinton campaign and not to the Sanders campaign. However, Logan provides some additional information which might be grounds for additional research.

There is a donation form online for the Clinton campaign powered by NGP VAN. Is this company processing donations and therefore taking a fee? What else is this company doing for the Clinton campaign? Is it designing the website and campaign material as well as printing and direct mailing?

The fact that the name of the head of NGP VAN is Aharon Wasserman is also a concern. It is not known if he is related to Wasserman Schultz.

Bernie’s Campaign Takes a Hit

I pity the ‘liberal’ pundits who’ve been insisting that Bernie is ‘unelectable’. I pity them because when they write about other subjects they seem so level headed that I suspect they may be in pain. They probably never thought they’d be spending the last months of the primary campaign writing things that they know are nonsense. After all, Hillary was supposed to be sweeping to victory by now, meaning that any bias on the part of these writers—or their editors’—would remain secret.

Nevertheless, I guess we should find out what they mean by electability. According the British media, which is not much better than ours, one part of electability is ‘the ceaseless work of appearing plausible’ and the other part is policy, which apparently is also ‘a matter of seeming’. And it’s curious that it isn’t only the Right-leaning papers like the BBC who play this game in Britain—the Guardian plays it as well. Paul Myerscough puts the blame on the media’s inability to adjust to the changing political reality. ((Paul Myerscough, Corbyn in the Media, London Review of Books, 22 October 2015. Available: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n20/paul-myerscough/corbyn-in-the-media)) Sounds rather innocent doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the problem in the United States is that Beelzebub and his minions have us where they want us. It would be so sweet to see them fall on their lying faces, but regardless of the outcome of the primary contest, Bernie’s campaign has already revealed the impotence of their wealth. However that won’t save the hapless, captive media from playing out this farce to the bitter end.

Meanwhile, we now have a new crisis—the database breach—to worry about. ((Maryalice Parks, Benjamin Siegal, Paola Chavez and Veronica Stracqualursi, DNC Data Breach, ABC News, December 18, 2015. Available: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/dnc-data-breach-happened-means-bernie-sanders-campaign/story?id=35841222)) Of course, The Washington Post, a die-hard Clinton supporter, was the first to report that the Sanders campaign was expelled over a database glitch. That should be no surprise, but who should weigh in today on the relative merits of Sanders versus Clinton but the Guardian?((Richard Wolffe, Bernie Sanders is not the Threat to Hillary Clinton He May Appear to Be. The Guardian, December 18, 2015. Available:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/18/bernie-sanders-not-the-threat-to-hillary-clinton-2016-presidential-election)) Apparently these people have no intention of waiting around for a repeat of Britain’s election results.

Update: Bernie’s campaign filed suit this afternoon against the DNC:  Bernie 2016 Inc. v. DNC Services Corp., 15-cv-2211, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington) h/t.  You can follow Bernie on Twitter @SenSanders, and sign his petition telling the DNC that you expect a level playing field at go.berniesanders.com.  You can also see the Twitter posting about the law suit.  Jennifer Epstein @jenips provided this tweet, citing @andynewsnowindc. 

Update December 19: The DNC agreed last night to restore the Sanders campaign’s access to its own database @NicholsUprising.  The party faced the threat of an emergency court injunction.

December 19:  The consensus is that Sanders campaign staffers were in the wrong.  However, DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz has said from the beginning that Senator Sanders had nothing to do with it.  On the other hand, there seems to be general agreement that she should have dealt with the whole thing privately.  

Who’s Right About Syria?

I’m reading Patrick Cockburn’s article about the U.S. teaming up again with Al Qaeda and at the same time listening to Obama’s news conference. I’d like to know why they differ so much on the situation in Syria. Obama says it’s all about Assad’s treatment of Syrian protesters. Cockburn says the U.S. has been trying to destabilize Assad’s regime since 2006. ((Patrick Cockburn, A Special Relationship, Harpers, January 2016)) It gets worse:

“Syria’s first and only democratically elected government was overthrown by a CIA-instigated coup in 1949 at the behest of American oil interests who objected to Syria’s request for better terms on a pipeline deal.”

The Precipice that is Syria

The big question after the Paris Attacks has been whether we should escalate the conflict in Syria. The task of voters, assuming they have a say in this matter, is to decide which facts are relevant to making a decision. There’s no question that ISIS represents a serious threat, and not just to the Middle East. Likewise, there’s no question that something must be done. But what? Some emphasize the need for a political solution. Others focus on military strategy. I think the first thing we need to understand is that the conflict in Syria has become a civil war between Shia and Sunni Islam. Next, the U.S. has taken sides in the civil war. Finally, the U.S. doesn’t really have a solution for the threat posed by ISIS beyond getting rid of Assad. These facts may not tell us what the solution is, but I think they definitely tell us what the solution is not: the solution is not military escalation on the part of the United States.

Patrick Cockburn wrote in October about ‘the failure over the last year of the US air campaign. ((Patrick Cockburn on the state of the Syrian war: Too Weak, Too Strong, London Review of Books, Oct. 23, 2015.))He said that this failure is political as much as military. The US “needs partners on the ground who are fighting IS, but its choice is limited because those who are actually engaged in combat with the Sunni jihadis are Shia. This includes Iran, the Syrian army, Hizbollah, and the Shia militias in Iraq. The US can’t offer them full military co-operation because that would alienate the Sunni states, the bedrock of America’s power in the region. As a result the US can only use its air force in support of the Kurds.”

We now know that the U.S. air campaign against ISIS hasn’t been working as well as we thought, and that the administration has manipulated the intelligence to make it seem that it’s been more successful than it has. Now we know why. As Cockburn explains, the US had a similar problem after 9/11. It was known when George Bush declared the war on terror “that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi and the money for the operation came from Saudi donors, but the US didn’t want to pursue al-Qaida at the expense of its relations with the Sunni states, so it muted criticism of Saudi Arabia and invaded Iraq; similarly, it never confronted Pakistan over its support for the Taliban, ensuring that the movement was able to regroup after losing power in 2001.”

This is now a huge problem in Syria because over the last few months the civil war aspect of the conflict has become more apparent. Basically, the problem with a military approach led by the U.S. is that ISIS is a Sunni force, which means that, thanks to our alliance with the Saudi’s, we’re on the wrong side of the fight with ISIS.

Which brings us to the problem with the political approach. According to Cockburn, Shia leaders have never believed in the West’s assurance that there is a moderate, non-sectarian Sunni opposition willing to share power in Damascus and Baghdad. Shia states across the Middle East, especially Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, understand this as a fight to the death with the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia and it’s local allies in Syria and Iraq. Although Shia are outnumbered by Sunnis in the Muslim world at large, Shia interests in this region are significant. There are more than a hundred million Shia in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon who believe their very existence depends on Assad staying in power in Syria. Yet this is our big political solution—that Assad must leave and the Shia states must negotiate with the supposedly moderate Sunni opposition.

There was more hope for the military approach when Russia entered the scene. Just as the U.S. bombing campaign was most successful when the Kurds were coordinating things on the ground, the Russian bombing campaign benefits from coordination with the Syrian army. Maybe this is why after the Paris attacks France’s President Hollande proposed a European alliance independent of NATO and why he seems so willing to work with Putin. On the other hand, if ISIS is only part of a civil war between Shia and Sunni, the conflict is bound to continue without ISIS. Which brings us to something like Andrew J. Bacevich’s predictions of a generational war. ((Who’s Ready for the Next World War? The Nation Magazine, Dec. 4, 2015. Available: http://www.thenation.com/article/whos-ready-for-the-next-world-war/)) In his scenario, our army would have to grow by a factor of five. Therefore, the draft would have to be reinstated… If that happens you can forget about the conversation. Who needs a conversation when all the really important questions—in particular questions about spending, but also questions about human spirit and potential—have been decided?

As the world’s governments move toward escalation, I think our first step should be to understand the dire nature of this situation–that there are no quick fixes. While it’s obvious that the center of the problem is Saudi Arabia, the Saudi’s are not going anywhere. And because of their alliance with the United States, the U.S. is part of the problem. So long as this alliance lasts, increased U.S. participation will never lead to the end of ISIS.

But it’s important to point out that we’re not the only ones who are deluded. I suspect those fighting for ISIS are helping the very people they think they’re fighting, and this isn’t limited to the Saudis. I’m beginning to suspect ISIS fighters are helping organizations like the IMF and World Bank. Not that the IMF and World Bank caused the crisis—I wouldn’t know about that—but take the refugee crisis–the World Bank was promoting immigration long before the Syrian crisis began and it’s been the leading advocate for allowing Syrian refugees into Europe. Now ISIS is making that dream come true. Think about it! If ISIS really wants a caliphate, why would it terrorize its own population?

It seems we’re all being led in one direction or another. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just refuse to be led?  I admit that’s not very likely, but I think this has reached the point where we can choose to talk or we can choose to fight, but we can’t do both.